Cuban officials have officially given a sense of what, exactly, will happen to American fugitives who've taken refuge on the island over the last five decades now that relations have thawed. The answer: not much. "We've explained to the U.S. government in the past that there are some people living in Cuba to whom Cuba has legitimately granted political asylum," said Josefina Vidal, the country's head of North American affairs, adding, "There's no extradition treaty in effect between Cuba and the U.S." That means fugitives like Assata Shakur, wanted for alleged involvement in the death of a New Jersey state trooper in the 70s, will get to stay put, despite New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's demands.
The First Amendment scored a victory for abortion rights Monday, when North Carolina appeals court ruled that a 2011 law forcing women to undergo ultrasounds before getting an abortion is unconstitutional because it violates freedom of speech. Of course, what the court took issue with wasn't quite the whole subjecting-women-to-an-unnecessary-medical-procedure thing, but rather with the fact that doctors are forced to deliver ultrasound results to women who don't want to hear them. "[T]he statement compelled here is ideological," the court ruled — and thus violates the doctors' freedom of speech.
Days after American officials pinned the blame for the Sony Pictures hack on reclusive North Korea, the country's internet is down in what may be its worst outage in recent memory. The country has been offline for several hours, in what is increasingly suspected to be another attack. "Usually there are isolated blips, not continuous connectivity problems. I wouldn't be surprised if they are absorbing some sort of attack presently," Dyn Research director of internet analysis Doug Madory told CNN. He also said that it is "consistent with a DDoS attack on their routers."
It looks like embattled Staten Island congressman Michael Grimm will now plead guilty Tuesday to one felony count of tax evasion, the New York Times reports. The Republican, who won reelection to the House despite a 20-count federal indictment, had originally pleaded not guilty and was set to fight the charges in a trial beginning in February.
The MTA has unveiled its new "Courtesy Counts" campaign, and they are really covering the gamut of all the awful, annoying things people (note: never you!) do on the subway. While the anti-manspreader campaign has already gotten some attention, the MTA will install many different placards "bearing gentle, but firm reminders" on how to be a decent human being on your morning commute.
Mayor Bill de Blasio continues to walk a very fine line in his response to the shooting of two police officers this weekend, and his attempt today to smooth relations with the NYPD may have alienated civil rights advocates. At a luncheon for supporters of the Police Athletic League on Monday afternoon, de Blasio urged people to halt the ongoing protests over the recent deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police, saying now is the time to honor the two slain officers. "It’s time for everyone to put aside political debates, put aside protests, put aside all of the things that we will talk about in due time," de Blasio said. "That can be for another day."
Last month Rolling Stone published a 9,000-word article that described the horrific 2012 gang rape of a University of Virginia freshman, and how the school mishandled the incident. For a few days, it seemed to be serving its purpose: The article sparked a conversation about sexual assault on campus and how schools nationwide often respond to brutal crimes with indifference. Then, as questions were raised about why the author, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, either failed to contact the alleged rapists or never even tried, the story morphed into a flashpoint in various other debates, from how we treat rape victims to journalism ethics to the nature of memory. With many apparent contradictions from Rolling Stone, Erdely, and the accuser — the latest twist involves possible catfishing — the story can be hard to follow. Here's a guide to what we know so far.
In his first editor's note for The New Republic, editor-in-chief Gabriel Snyder suggests that the recent exodus of a large chunk of its staff is just a sign that the magazine is staying true to its roots. "The New Republic has always been both in love and at war with its prior self," he writes. "The magazine’s early decades were marked by abrupt ownership changes, unceremonious dismissals of editors, shifting policy positions, and uprooted headquarters, all accompanied by masthead upheavals." After running through the "many deaths and rebirths" of TNR, Snyder concludes that "its most important survival skill has been to attract new champions from beyond its inner sanctum." So, rather than an embarrassing incident sparked by the departure of a beloved editor, Snyder portrays this as an opportunity for the magazine to "be better at welcoming into our fold readers, writers, and editors who reflect the American experience as it exists today."
New York officials are treading carefully in the wake of the shooting of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos over the weekend, to the point that Governor Cuomo refused to explicity reject Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch's comment that Mayor Bill de Blasio has blood on his hands. NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton tried to do the same in an appearance on the Today show, though he might have riled some by remarking, "It's quite obvious that the targeting of these two police officers was a direct spinoff of the issues of these demonstrations."
When asked if the mayor has lost the "trust and confidence of the police force," Bratton acknowledged "I think he’s lost it with some officers," but he said he was not in favor of police turning their backs on de Blasio in the hospital on Saturday night. "I don't support that particular activity," he said. "I don't think it was appropriate, particularly in that setting but it's reflective of the anger of some of them."
While the controversy over President Obama's immigration action and normalizing U.S. relations with Cuba will certainly carry into the new year, the president is already working on another bold move sure to infuriate members of Congress. Senior administration officials tell The Wall Street Journal that Obama plans to make an aggressive push to close Guantánamo Bay, which still holds 132 detainees. This month, six detainees were transferred to Uruguay and four were sent back to Afghanistan. The White House intends to return more prisoners to foreign countries in early 2015 or even before the end of the year, focusing first on the 64 detainees that have been cleared for release.